Health experts in Africa have come up with anti-tobacco media campaigns aimed at countering pro-tobacco campaigns and emerging smoking technologies.
The media campaigns target non-smokers, smokers and policy makers.
The aim is to create awareness about the harmful effects of conventional tobacco and innovations like e-smoking and shisha, all of which have been proven harmful at varying degrees.
Although Africa is at an early stage of the tobacco epidemic, health experts from Botswana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa and Uganda recently resolved to engage the media to curb the problem.
“We want to see increased behavioural change where people begin to mind who is smoking around them and demand a smoke-free environment,” said Tahir Turk technical adviser at World Lung Foundation.
Media campaigns have worked in bringing down infections like HIV and Ebola and a significant improvement in immunisation coverage. The Framework for Tobacco Control recognises the use of the media — including the social media — to educate the public on tobacco.
Last month, health workers went through a week-long training in Kampala, Uganda on developing anti-tobacco media messages and selection of appropriate channels to distribute the messages. Communication specialists from World Lung Foundation facilitated the training hosted at the Centre for Tobacco Control in Africa (CTCA).
In 2010, CTCA, which is situated at Makerere University School of Public Health, was mandated to help countries in Africa enact legislation that will ensure smoke-free environments; raise tobacco taxes by at least 70 per cent; ensure tobacco companies place graphic health warnings on cigarette packets and ban tobacco advertising in all forms of media.
Tobacco is the leading cause of non-communicable diseases like lung disease, stroke, diabetes, impotence, cancer, heart disease, low birth weight and mental impairment in new-born children.
WHO estimates that tobacco kills more people than HIV, malaria and tuberculosis combined. The three disease kill close to five million people annually while tobacco related illnesses kill six million people in a year.